The name of one of the most iconic venues in college basketball is facing a challenge.
The faculty of the University of Kentucky’s African-American and Africana Studies Department issued a call for change at the Lexington, Ky., school on Thursday, and among the 10 items requested is renaming Rupp Arena.
The group wrote in its letter to university president Eli Capilouto, “The Adolph Rupp name has come to stand for racism and exclusion in UK athletics and alienates Black students, fans, and attendees. The rebuilding of the arena and the convention center offer an opportunity to change the name to a far more inclusive one, such as Wildcat Arena.
“In addition, the University should survey all campus buildings and remove all names of enslavers, Confederate sympathizers (such as William C.P. Breckinridge), and other white supremacists.”
Other requests in the letter included increasing the amount of Black faculty members, appointing more Black faculty members to leadership positions, and requiring undergraduates to take a course on race and inequality.
The university replied in a statement, “The faculty and students who have expressed these concerns are deeply valued members of our community. We thank them for their continued passion and commitment to advancing equity at UK. Senior officials have been meeting and corresponding with them to address their specific concerns, which speak forcefully to the systemic and institutional racism that we must thoughtfully and urgently address as a campus.”
The call to change the name of Rupp Arena comes as the building and its adjoining convention center are undergoing a $275 million renovation. Earlier this year, the basketball venue was officially renamed Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center, with the bank paying $1.5 million annually for 14 years to put its name on the building.
Rupp Arena has housed Kentucky basketball since it was completed in November 1976. One year later, Adolph Rupp died at age 76.
Rupp coached the Wildcats from 1930-31 to 1971-72, leading the team to four national championships. He finished with an 876–190 career record in a career that led to his induction in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
However, he didn’t recruit his first Black player until Tom Payne signed with the Wildcats in June 1969. Back in 1966, Kentucky’s all-white lineup lost the NCAA championship game 72-65 to the all-Black lineup of Texas Western (now known as Texas El Paso).